Planning Your Trip to Ottawa for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend: Getting to Ottawa

If you’re not a local Ottawa/Gatineau resident, you’re probably already planning your trip to the region for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, and the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. You’re in good company! In fact, over 39,000 out of town visitors travelled to attend this award-winning Event of the Year in 2019, coming by train, plane, bus and car.

So how are you getting to Canada’s National Capital Region in May? Choosing the perfect travel method is all about your budget, preferences, and schedule… If you haven’t travelled to Ottawa before, it can be a tricky decision to make. To help take out some of the guesswork, we are sharing some info on the most popular ways to travel.

Take the train with VIA Rail Canada

If you’re travelling within Canada, taking the train with VIA Rail Canada can be one of the most pleasant ways to get to Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. VIA serves 450 destinations across the country, and offers a variety of seating and cabin options depending on how far you’ll be coming. Even better, when you travel by train instead of by car or airplane, you’re helping reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, all in comfortable seats with onboard meal and beverage services.

Ticket prices fluctuate between very affordable to pricey, based on seat availability and demand. The less expensive booking classes can sell out months in advance, so the earlier you book your trip the better. VIA also offers discounts and special deals regularly!

Via Rail Train

Convinced? Here are some tips to make your journey go a little more smoothly.

1. Bring your laptop, and headphones so you can make use of the free wifi and the digital on-train entertainment offerings, like movies and tv shows. The trains are equipped with electrical outlets!

2. If you’re travelling from a destination in Quebec or Ontario, try Business Class if you can find tickets within your budget. You’ll get access to the Business Lounge at the station, and delicious onboard meals and beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) included with the cost of your ticket.

3. VIA recently changed their onboard payment options for things like snack and bar services, and you won’t be able to pay cash on the majority of trains anymore. Only regular or prepaid AMEX, Visa and Mastercard and VIA Rail gift cards are accepted, so make sure to bring one along in case you need to buy something during the trip.

4. Pack your own food to save on the cost of snacks and drinks in the concession cart.

Getting from the VIA Rail station to the startline:

Via is partnered with Discount Car and Truck rental, so if you decide you want to rent a car for the weekend you can pick up your car at the QuickCar kiosks at the Ottawa station. Other options include calling a Lyft, using one of the many taxis that are always available at the station, or hopping on the LRT at the Tremblay Station.

Fly into the Ottawa Macdonald/Cartier International Airport

If you’re travelling internationally or coming from one of the eastern or western provinces, you’ll probably be flying into the Ottawa Macdonald/Cartier International Airport. Air Canada, Porter, WestJet, American Airlines, Delta and United are just some of the big name airlines that land in YOW daily. The airport itself is traveller-friendly and feels spacious rather than crowded, and has been awarded Gold for the second year in a row for Best Airport by Size and Region – North America. In 2019, the airport also underwent impressive renovations with travellers in mind, and saw a surge of new restaurants and boutique shops.Ottawa International Airport

According to Statistics Canada, the average cost of Canadian base air fares (not including taxes and user fees) for international flights is approximately $292.00, and $167.50 for domestic flights.

Tips to make your trip go smoothly:

1. Make sure you double check the weight and checked luggage limits on your ticket and stay within them to avoid being hit with costly baggage fees. If you are bringing a stroller or a mobility device, contact your airline ahead of time to let them know.

2. Cash is not accepted for onboard purchases on planes in Canada, so you will need to bring a credit card to purchase food or drinks during your trip. Many airlines do not accept prepaid credit cards either, so double check.

3. If you are coming to Canada from another country, customs will not let you bring certain food items through, like fresh fruits, vegetables, animal or fish products, so it’s often not worth it to pack your own fresh snacks only to have them be thrown out. Weapons, fireworks, cannabis and more are also prohibited.

4. Most airlines advise arriving at the airport an hour and a half ahead of your flight. Luckily, YOW has free wifi throughout the entire airport, and the new commercial zones are a fun way to kill time when you get through security before going to your terminal.

Getting from the airport to the startline:

Once you land, you can choose to rent a car from one of nine different car rental companies in the airport, use the Airport Shuttle Service, take a taxi, call a Lyft or use OC Transpo.  If you choose to use OCTranspo, you’re taking Bus Route 97. There are OCTranspo ticket machines with different types of passes to suit your needs, so you don’t have to stress about having exact change / fare when you land.

Take the bus with Greyhound

Greyhound Canada is the largest provider of intercity bus transportation in the country, with 1,100 destinations and 6.5 million passengers each year. Each bus has air conditioning, reclining seats and a restroom for your comfort and convenience. Greyhound bus tickets vary in price depending on your trip, but can be as affordable as $40 for one way from Toronto to Ottawa. Your tickets are non-refundable, but they can be exchanged for different days or times if you need to make any alterations to your trip.Greyhound bus

Tips to make your trip go smoothly:

1. Not all of Canada’s Greyhound buses have electrical outlets on their buses, so it’s best to get your devices fully charged before you leave, or pack an external power source for your cellphone or laptop, especially for longer trips.

2. Some Greyhound buses have wifi onboard their buses in Canada but connection can be spotty on some of the more remote parts of the journey. Add more data to your plan if you want to stream on your phone or hotspot your wifi to your laptop. Alternatively, Netflix and other apps allow you to download content to play offline.

3. Unlike some bus companies around the world, you don’t buy an assigned seat on the bus, so arrive early to get on first and avoid sitting close to the bathroom. It’s also a good idea to bring your own hand sanitizer or wet wipes too, as most of the buses do not have running water on board.

4. Pack your own lunch and snacks, as the stops along the way are usually very quick, with limited options for meals. Alcohol is not allowed to be consumed onboard the Greyhound fleet.

Getting from the bus station to the startline:

Ottawa’s bus station is pretty much right downtown, which means you can walk (or run!) to where you are going, as well as easily get on a bus, hail a taxi or book a rideshare.

Driving yourself or carpooling

Whether you own or rent a car to travel to Ottawa, driving yourself puts you in control of your trip. You can take bathroom breaks and plan detours to other towns to stretch your legs along the way. You can stop to eat whenever you like, and play your own music at full blast!

The downside to driving is that traffic is not always reliable, and the cost of gas is roughly 120 cents a litre as of 2020. If you aren’t driving a fuel efficient car, it can really add up. Many people opt to look for carpooling or car sharing options for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend on Kijiji or Kanga rideshare. Not sure how far away you are? Find out by using Google Maps, and click “measure distance” to plan your route.Driving Directions with Google Maps

Tips to make your trip go smoothly:

1. Arrange for parking ahead of time. Ottawa has detailed street parking regulations and restrictions that include time limitations for daytime street parking, even in the absence of signage. Because Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend brings hundreds of thousands of people out to cheer as spectators, and some of them have driven downtown, you’ll want to reserve a spot early with your hotel, or in a parking garage. You can also download and make use of the PayByPhone app to make your parking experience convenient and easy.

2. Ensure your roadside assistance plans are up to date, and that you have the contact number in your glovebox with your insurance. Accidents happen, and you don’t want to be stranded with a flat tire or unable to reach a tow truck. It’s good to know where your cell phone plan works and does not work. Certain cellular providers will have “dead zones”.

3. Try out some scenic routes to get to Ottawa, instead of the major highways. If you’re driving from the GTA, try Hwy 7 instead of the 401 for a more interesting and beautiful drive. Scenic routes through Quebec are also a great bet for a fun road trip, like the 148 if you’re coming from Montreal. Then, check the traffic day of, and plan accordingly. For example, while the drive from Toronto to Ottawa is in theory only 4 hours, traffic conditions on major highways can easily stretch your trip to 6.

4. If you are carpooling with a stranger or a rideshare service, ensure that you have shared their license plate number, their picture and contact info and car make with someone you trust. Stick to set times to make phone calls and check-ins. Safety is important!

Whether you take the train, fly, grab a bus or drive to race weekend this year, we can’t wait to run with you in 2020!

Looking for a place to stay? Find the best prices for accommodations close to all the action with Resiada!

Register for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend 2020